Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan gives a presentation on the rehabilitation of Coleman A. Young International Airport Oct. 13, 2022. (BridgeDetroit Photo by Malachi Barrett)

Mayor Mike Duggan has a $2.45 billion vision to cultivate more open spaces and recreational opportunities in Detroit and update the city’s water and transportation infrastructure.

Duggan’s capital agenda identifies investments needed over the next five fiscal years between 2023 and 2028. The mayor’s spending priorities are 72% larger than his previous plan approved in 2020, growing by $599 million. The November document, released every two years, is not a budget and doesn’t appropriate money, but it can have a major impact on the annual budgeting process. Funding laid out in the capital plan isn’t guaranteed, and the priorities can change. 

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“Capital projects are those that provide a public benefit by constructing or improving an asset that will be in service for many years,” Budget Director Steve Watson said in a statement. “Many of the projects in the Capital Agenda will shape the physical landscape of Detroit far into the future, will enable the City to create vibrant and inclusive neighborhoods, and will increase access to opportunity for every resident.”

An analysis of the mayor’s plan by the City Council’s Legislative Policy Division found that it proposes significant increases in all spending categories except “housing and economic development,” which does not include bond-funded blight removal and demolition efforts. Proposed spending on “open spaces and recreation” quadrupled, rising from $126 million in the previous capital agenda to $513 million in Duggan’s latest plan.

Much of the boosted capital agenda focuses on upkeep for infrastructure and city-owned facilities, vehicles and equipment. The plan also calls for investments in people. Projects in the spending plan support housing, economic development, recreation, public health and safety, transportation and utilities. 

Duggan, in a letter to the City Council, said the agenda reflects a commitment to give Detroiters “opportunity, safety and beauty.” A summary within the plan focuses on providing support for critical services and neighborhood improvements without raising taxes, but also warns of “economic uncertainty ahead.”

The Detroit City Council has until March 1, 2023 to review, make changes and vote on the plan. The document was first introduced to a council budget and finance committee and still needs approval by the Detroit Planning Commission, which would likely come early next year. Council Member Fred Durhal III said presentations will be held so residents have a better understanding of the agenda’s key points. The council has an opportunity to remove projects from the agenda until next March. 

The plan could see some tweaks based on feedback from the Legislative Policy Division, which provides the council with research and analysis. LPD Director David Whitaker has nearly 40 questions for Duggan’s administration regarding funding sources, department priorities, progress toward ongoing projects and why the capital agenda doesn’t include $710 million of capital spending approved in the city’s 2023 budget. 

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department has the largest capital needs –  $510.3 million by the end of the 2027-28 fiscal year. That represents roughly 20% of Detroit’s total capital agenda. Major water main and lead service line replacements across the city, a flood prevention program and stormwater improvements are among proposed projects. 

Parks projects under the General Services Division have the largest estimated cost, at $382.5 million, followed by $374.7 million for the Department of Public Works and $312.9 million for the Department of Transportation. The funding would pay for the expansion of a citywide non-motorized greenway, street resurfacing, bridge repairs and a new bus terminal, among other things.

A variety of outside funding sources are suggested to support the spending plan. Detroit’s budget is boosted with state and federal aid, bonds, grants from philanthropic organizations and other public-private partnerships. 

Construction crews work on a housing development project in Brush Park neighborhood on June 29, 2022. (BridgeDetroit Photo by Malachi Barrett)

Housing and economic development

Detroit’s Housing and Revitalization Department has $69.6 million in planned investments across the next five years. This includes spending to build new affordable housing units, fix up older homes to sell to low- and middle-income buyers and rehabilitate foreclosed properties acquired by the city.

The city identified $16 million in new investment for permanent housing projects. Funding sources would include a mix of federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars and grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, but other details aren’t included in the capital plan.

Major projects include the redevelopment of historic Lee Plaza, an abandoned high-rise on Detroit’s west side. Detroit-based Roxbury Group and Ethos Development Partners are working to create affordable units for low-income seniors and market-rate apartments after purchasing the building from the city in 2019. The capital agenda states $9.5 million in federal funds are needed between 2023 and 2025 to support the rehab work. 

The capital agenda proposes $1.5 million in federal grants to support the rehabilitation of the former United Artists Building. The $75 million project, led by Detroit-based Bagley Development Group, will turn the nearly 100-year-old building at 150 Bagley into apartments, retail and dining by late 2023. Federal grants are needed to fix up the historic facade and other blight removal aspects of the rehabilitation, according to the capital agenda.  

More than a dozen affordable housing developments would cost a combined $21.75 million, according to the plan. New construction projects are spread throughout the city and would be supported with federal housing funds. 

The Planning and Development Department has $120.3 million in capital needs over the next five years. This includes projects to improve commercial corridors, create neighborhood plans and repurpose vacant schools. 

The vast majority of proposed funding for the planning department – $103 million – would go toward implementing recommendations in 13 neighborhood plans. Neighborhood commercial corridors could see another $2 million investment to preserve and stabilize “key properties” identified through the neighborhood plans. Making commercial corridors like the “Avenue of Fashion” on Livernois more attractive to new businesses and pedestrian traffic is a major priority of the planning department. 

The capital agenda shows $4.8 million is needed to continue developing three to four neighborhood framework plans each year through 2027. 

Another $2.5 million from the city’s General Fund is needed to prepare vacant school buildings for redevelopment. The work is informed by a study of 63 vacant historic schools in Detroit released last year. The study found a handful of the properties, some owned by the city and others owned by private groups, are located in neighborhoods the city is targeting for strategic investments.  

The mayor also proposes spending a combined $2.25 million to study potential uses of vacant land and a plan to update industrial development policies and identify vacant sites that could be used for industrial use. 

A speed hump was photographed on Detroit’s northwest side on June 3, 2022. (BridgeDetroit Photo by Malachi Barrett)

Streets, People Mover and Detroit’s airport 

Capital needs for the Department of Public Works are wide-ranging and cover streets, bridges and public infrastructure to the tune of $374.7 million over the next five years.

Some of the largest costs include $216 million to resurface streets and improve intersections, $71.6 million for streetscapes in neighborhoods and $37.5 million for strategies to make streets safer. Millions more in spending is identified for bridge repairs, speed humps, sidewalk repairs, cameras to watch sites for illegal dumping, plus studies on automated driving and traffic congestion. 

The Department of Transportation is estimated to need $312.9 million in funds for capital projects over the next five years. The funding would rehabilitate buses in the middle of their useful life, purchase electric buses and charging equipment and update DDOT’s fare collection system.

Facility improvements include an estimated $19.2 million for transit hubs at the intersection of bus routes, $4.6 million to renovate the historic Shoemaker Terminal, $3.9 million to repair DDOT’s administration facility, and $2.7 million to repair the Rosa Parks Transit Center downtown. 

DDOT is also hoping to replace security cameras and signage, install seating at bus stops and expand wireless internet services. 

The Detroit Transportation Corporation, which is responsible for managing the downtown People Mover, needs an estimated $65.2 million for capital improvements funded with Federal Transit Administration dollars. This includes replacing 12 train cars, new surveillance cameras and automated passenger counters, repairs to substations that provide power to the People Mover and upgraded fare collection equipment.

The Municipal Parking Department has an estimated $27.8 million in capital needs, including $10 million toward increasing parking in commercial corridors. 

Major changes are coming to the Coleman A. Young International Airport, which has long sat underused and in disrepair. The Federal Aviation Administration signed off on a new Airport Layout Plan guiding its redevelopment. The capital plan calls for an estimated $28.5 million in improvements, including $10 million to improve runway safety, $8.8 million for a new taxiway, and $4.35 million to finish the acquisition of an adjacent neighborhood. 

The General Services Department estimates spending $4.7 million on improvements to airport facilities over the next five years. Other plans, like construction of a new air traffic control tower and demolition of structures and a deteriorating runway do not have a price estimate. Funding is expected to come from a combination of state and federal grants and city General Fund dollars. 

(BridgeDetroit File Photo by Valaurian Waller)

Parks and recreation

The capital plan identifies $382.5 million for the General Services Department to invest in parks, public spaces and recreation.

Half of that proposed investment is needed to support the expansion of the Joe Louis Greenway. When complete, the greenway will connect parks and neighborhoods through a 27.5-mile looping pathway consisting of new trails, on-street protected bike lanes and links to existing trails like the Dequindre Cut and the Detroit RiverWalk. The first section opened in October. 

The project is expected to be $240.3 million, though some of the funds have already been allocated. Improvements to parks and recreation centers are estimated at $125 million, while annual replacements of park amenities like benches, playscapes and landscaping are expected to cost $2.5 million. Rouge, Chandler and Rackham golf courses need $4.3 million for renovations and upgrades. 

Downtown’s Hart Plaza is slated for $18 million in repairs and improvements, according to the capital agenda. Further east down the Detroit Riverfront, Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre would receive $6 million in improvements. 

Third-party marinas and harbors along the Detroit River could also receive $27.3 million in repairs through the General Fund.

Eastern Market and museums 

Eastern Market Corporation, the nonprofit  responsible for managing the market district, has its own capital planning process supported by the city. Eastern Market is looking to bring in new food vendors, expand residential developments, and make the market a year-round destination. A total of $62 million in spending is proposed under the five-year agenda. 

About half of those funds – $30 million – would go toward replacing Shed 4 with an enclosed shelter available for the fall and winter months. The development could include a three-story building with leasing space and office space for food businesses and new U.S. Department of Agriculture employees coming to the Detroit field office.

Another $20 million is needed to build “Shed X,” which would be dedicated to wholesale distribution of locally-grown food products. Eastern Market is planning $3.6 million in streetscape and infrastructure improvements to make the area safer for pedestrians and residents in new housing units. 

Detroit Zoological Institute has $55 million in capital needs, largely split between infrastructure improvements and a collection of new installations for kids. Renovations to the zoo’s main entrance, a memorial fountain and walkways are estimated at $7.5 million. 

The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History delayed important repairs during the pandemic, driving up some of the costs. The capital agenda shows $11.7 million is needed and around half would go toward heating and air conditioning repairs, electrical systems and fire mitigation.

The Detroit Historical Society needs just under $2 million for various improvements to facilities and exhibits at the Detroit Historical Museum, Dossin Great Lakes Museum and Collections Resource Center. 

Health and safety

The Detroit Police Department needs to spend an estimated $69.4 million largely to modernize and repair department facilities. The annual replacement of ballistic vests is expected to cost $3.5 million. All funds will come from the city’s General Fund, according to the capital agenda. 

Facility repairs make up a big part of planned spending for the Detroit Fire Department, too. The department needs $43.8 million in capital investments including $8.7 million to replace radios and other technology. 

Another $300,000 is needed to purchase three unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with thermal imaging technology, which allow firefighters to locate structural dangers and trapped people before entering a burning building. 

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